Co-Op Stories: For Tanya Johnson, career-building opportunity creates new path

Co-Op: Story from the Field featuring Tanya Johnson
Credit: Penn State

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling internship experiences of undergraduate students participating in Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op. For more stories like Johnson’s, visit

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Sometimes, an important part of the undergraduate experience is exploring career options to find a path that fits. This was the case for Tanya Johnson, a second-year Division of Undergraduate Studies student at Penn State Schuylkill. She discovered a marketing internship when an opportunity was posted in her Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op class’s online channel. Johnson applied for the internship with Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association (NEPA MAEA) and secured an interview the very next day.

Johnson credits Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op with helping her explore content in different majors and ultimately find what she is and is not interested in within certain fields. Her internship with NEPA MAEA this summer opened her eyes to the work and dedication people within the company put into their jobs, not to mention that the experience allowed her to practice skills she learned during Co-Op class, such as effective communication with a team.

In another example of Co-Op’s classroom learning preparing Johnson for the field, she states that her instructors encouraged her to be prepared to ask questions. Johnson explained, “When my internship supervisor gave me directions, I repeated them back to her to double check, and ask questions where I am unsure. My supervisor complimented me on how asking questions is important and necessary in any job. Not only does this help you understand the task, but it is also letting your supervisor know that you care and want to understand.”

Being willing to ask questions and learn on the job is imperative to becoming a well-rounded and engaged employee. Johnson felt that her innate curiosity and ability to think outside the box was re-affirmed in Co-Op when her instructors encouraged her to open up in interactive classroom activities.

“Tanya has done a fantastic job at increasing her confidence while interacting with her peers and with us, as her instructors,” said Kate Zimmerman, director of cooperative and continuing education at Penn State Schuylkill. “When she first started in Co-Op, we knew that she was unsure of what career path may align with her passions and overall goals. We encouraged her to have conversations with employers and take the first step in trying an internship in an area that she was interested in learning more about, which was marketing. We have seen such an improvement in her confidence and communication and are glad to see her owning her personal and professional experiences.”

While Johnson is still figuring out her path at Penn State Schuylkill and beyond, she’s grateful to Co-Op and her first internship for providing her with insight into real-world experience, as well as a sense of direction for her next steps. Passionate about helping others and maintaining her creativity, Johnson would like to continue exploring marketing, and also has an interest learning more about human resources. Whatever her next steps may be, Johnson is well-prepared to move forward.

Q: Can you tell us what your internship title was, and the work that the company does?

Johnson: My title was marketing and administrative intern. NEPA MAEA is a membership-based organization that serves more than 345 member companies and helps them with their most important business needs. For instance, they run training sessions, hold golf events to sponsor businesses, and offer free services for members such as a resume register, member journal, a hotline and more.

Q: Explain your daily tasks/jobs or projects that you worked on.

Johnson: My daily tasks were different day to day. I was able to see varying sides of the marketing field with high-level tasks involving NEPA MAEA’s members, such as creating certificates for them or reaching out to remind them of upcoming trainings. I also gained experience in specific areas of marketing including event planning and project management.

Q: Describe a specific project that made this internship memorable.

Johnson: A short-term project I worked on that was memorable was helping with NEPA MAEA’s annual summer golf outing. I was able to design posters, accounted for inventory of donations, and put boxes together. For this project, I worked alongside my supervisor and one other co-worker. I really enjoyed creating the posters; it allowed me to use my creative side. There were so many tasks within this project that had to be done, and it showed me the logistical side of event planning and project management. Although event planning can be difficult, my supervisor created a calm and enjoyable environment to work in. I certainly learned a lot during this project.

Q: What has surprised you the most on the job?

Johnson: The thing that surprised me the most about this job was how open-minded and kind all of the supervisors were. I came into the role with an idea that many members of leadership don’t have the time or willingness to help newer employers or interns. I couldn’t have been more wrong! At NEPA MAEA, everyone was incredibly welcoming and willing to step in and help wherever needed. I was allowed to work and learn at my own pace and felt supported when I needed help. It was great to be encouraged to learn and try new tasks while interning there.

Learn more about Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op.